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Bill proposes multi-pronged approach for easing MN's human services workforce shortage

(House Photography file photo)

Legislators continually hear about workforce shortages in a variety of industries, especially in caring occupations like nursing or staffing long-term care facilities.

One place the shortage is especially acute is personal care assistants who can help people with a disability live independently or help people to age in place.

HF4447, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth), aims to offer short- and long-term solutions to the problem.

The bill was laid over Friday by the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. There is no Senate companion.

Strategies to address the shortage break down into four categories: Medical Assistance rate increases, incentives for frontline workers, new programs to support low-wage workers navigating health care career pathways, and other administrative strategies, such as improved online tools, Schultz said.

Rate increases are especially critical in the personal care assistant and elderly waiver frameworks and go toward services provided in people’s own homes, said Elyse Bailey, budget director for the Department of Human Services.

The mechanism for increasing wages for professional care assistants is reduction of a state discount, said Maren Hulden, staff attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. Currently the state reimburses about 75% of the actual cost of service; the bill would increase that by 8%.

“This is a really smart way to do it because the change will be structural and ongoing,” she said.

The bill would also expand critical incident review programs that move from a culture of blame toward one of accountability, Bailey said. Pilot programs have indicated this is a helpful tool in workforce retention.  

Among the fiscal year 2023 appropriations specified in the bill are:

  • $1.9 million for demonstration programs for postsecondary institutions to help adults in lower-wage jobs get degrees in health care occupations. The base fund would then be $7.7 million in fiscal year 2024 and $10 million in fiscal year 2025;
  • $1 million annually for behavioral peer specialist training;
  • $500,000 in each of the next three years to implement a critical incident review process;
  • $400,000 to expand online tools for people receiving services and direct support workers. The base fund would up to more than $660,000 the following two years; and
  • $100,000 to plan on-site workforce services at postsecondary institutions to increase the number of low-income students and students of color successfully complete degrees and gain employment. The bill calls for $2.4 million in fiscal year 2024 and $3.2 million in fiscal year 2025.

     


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